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01/07/24 | 10:40 am

Bellingham brilliance rescues England to book Euro 2024 quarter-final spot

England’s Jude Bellingham was not only proud to score a last-gasp bicycle kick equaliser to help rescue his side from Euro 2024 elimination in their last-16 clash with Slovakia but also to silence what he thinks are unjustified critics of the team.

England seemed unable to get a foothold against a relentless Slovakia outfit who took the lead with an Ivan Schranz strike on the counter in the 25th minute, but Bellingham’s effort took the match to extra time, with Harry Kane heading home for a 2-1 win.

“In international football, in knockout football, it’s even a worse feeling because you’re 30 seconds from going home and have to listen to all the rubbish, feeling like you’ve let a nation of people down,” Bellingham told a press conference.

“But in 30 seconds, one kick to the ball and everything can change… It’s a feeling that I never want and I don’t like to be in. But when it’s done, it feels great,” the player of the match added.

Bellingham did not think it was his best ever goal but said it was one of his most emotional moments on a pitch. He believed England had “in general a good performance” and was proud of their character when they had their backs against the wall.

“I think in knockout football, when you can produce a moment like that and everyone kind of looks around at each other and realises that’s the spirit we actually have got in that team, it can help a lot,” Bellingham said.

The win will not protect England manager Gareth Southgate from criticism, however, after he took 66 minutes to make a substitution despite his side looking bereft of ideas.

Slovakia had deserved the lead when Ivan Schranz scored his third goal of Euro 2024, making him joint top scorer with Georgia’s Georges Mikautadze and Germany’s Jamal Musiala.

Slovakia fans should be proud of their team’s effort despite a heartbreaking defeat to England, their manager Francesco Calzona said on Sunday.

“Definitely I feel pride, because we played a great match against a top level rival who is likely to win in the end. They are one of the favourites teams to win. My team gave the very best show, we played basically on a par with England,” Calzona said.

“We were almost qualified for the quarter finals and then it disappeared with only a few seconds to go. This is football however, we must accept it,” he added

(REUTERS)

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